Here’s something to really think about from a developmental perspective. It comes from a post in a coaching group.

How do I step outside of my own comfort zone as a coach? How do I work on being comfortable being uncomfortable?

It strikes me that there’s an inherent contradiction in the second part. If you are comfortable being uncomfortable, are you really uncomfortable? I know, I know. It’s about being able to accept being uncomfortable at times. Just being a bit pedantic. 🙂

Anyway… So how does one step out of their comfort zone as a coach? It’s something we push our players to do, but if we truly want to develop in our coaching we need to do it ourselves as well. What does that look like, though?

Coach something you don’t have a lot of experience coaching

Essentially, getting out of your comfort zone means doing something you don’t have much experience with or don’t feel like you do well. The easiest way to do that is to pick something you don’t normally focus on and coach that. For example, I came up as an assistant college coach with a personal focus on setting and working for head coaches with a strong defensive training mindset. As a result, setting and defense have long been firmly in my comfort zone. Blocking is a completely different story.

When I became the head coach at the University of Exeter, and especially when I coached in Sweden, I was basically the only coach. I was forced to coach blocking because there wasn’t anyone else to do it. Being in that kind of situation definitely encourages development!

So one way to coach something out of your comfort zone is to be a solo – or small staff – head coach. Alternatively, as an assistant you can ask to take on something different as part of the staff division of responsibilities.

Talk with more experienced coaches

The other way to get out of your comfort zone is to talk with coaches more experienced and/or knowledgeable than yourself. I’m not talking about going to a clinic, watching stuff on video, or reading books. I mean actively talking with them. And not just asking questions. You have to actually share your point of view. It’s the exposure that creates which is how you become uncomfortable. You have to be willing to face someone telling you you’re wrong or disagreeing with you in some way.

No playing it safe. You won’t gain anything in this scenario by following the old adage “It’s better to remain quiet and thought foolish than to open your mouth and remove any doubt.”

Watch yourself on video or have someone else evaluate you.

A really fast way to get uncomfortable is to watch yourself coaching on video. Even more so if you’re with someone else! If you REALLY want to get uncomfortable, bring someone in to evaluate your coaching. It can be especially valuable if they have a different coaching philosophy than yours, as they will push you to think through everything and defend your perspective.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.